The Supernatural convention in Minneapolis is notable for a couple of things. First, it’s in the grandest theater on the whole tour – an actual slanted floor tilted and cushioned seated amphitheater style theater with two clamshell balconies that open up like magic on Sunday for J2 Day. The stage is so big that some of the guests aren’t quite sure what to do with it and it makes the Saturday Night Special seem like a rock show in a bona fide concert hall – and Louden Swain and guests know exactly what to do with that!
The convention center, and the city itself actually, is also notable for being connected by a series of hamster trail elevated tunnels that allow you to make your way from the hotels to the convention center without being pelted by the inevitable wind and rain. My hotel was also playing host to a furry convention, so we had furries and Supernatural tee-shirted fans sharing space and high fiving in the hallways. I was struggling to transport my hundreds of copies of Family Don’t End With Blood the mile and a half (okay okay, exaggeration, but it felt like that…) of hamster trails to the convention center when a very nice young man at the furry convention offered to help. He pushed the overloaded handcart the entire way to the convention center, while we chatted about what our two fandoms had in common and why nobody should be ashamed of what they’re passionate about.
I was in the vendor room throughout the con, and was so honored to meet many people who had read Family Don’t End With Blood and been inspired by what the actors and the fans shared in their personal essays. I also was thrilled to collaborate with Jodi from Eldwenne’s Fantasy – she created an original Women of SPN – FDEWB necklace that I adore, and was kind enough to give one to me. The necklace symbolizes that for the women of Supernatural, family means more than just blood – there’s a blue backdrop that matches the cover of the book, hugged tight by silver to symbolize the found family that surrounds the Winchesters, and black for Baby. And of course the drop of blood red. Gorgeous. Jodi is giving $5 off the necklace to anyone who purchases the book, or $10 at a con!
The con kicked off on Friday with Rob and Rich a bit overwhelmed by the amount of greenery onstage – not just the usual couple of dead trees, but a whole forest of them, along with some equally-dead potted plants.
Rob and Rich rearranged them, made a makeshift Supernatural Christmas tree, and generally had way too much fun with inanimate things. They even had a Christmas story, with Richard sitting crosslegged on the stage.
Richard: Tell me a story, Bobbo!
It was one about the awesomeness of Misha Collins, which made an excellent story indeed.
They also thanked the fandom for the Kings of Con trending party the other night.
Richard: Turns out there are a lot of Supernatural fans who love KOC…
Richard gave one of his kickass inspirational opening talks about why this fandom is special, and how we love each other through, and because of, our differences.
Richard: It’s all about us coming together to celebrate each other’s uniqueness. We all have one thing in common, and it’s not Supernatural. It’s our humanity….So help me Chuck, anybody who signs up for the military is already braver than anybody who tells you that you shouldn’t….We are all equal. You are who you are.
I wasn’t the only one wanting to elect Richard on the spot.
Richard: Me and Misha Collins are running in 2020 on an all-angel ticket.
Hey, that sounds good to me!
Gil McKinney came out and shook the dead trees, which promptly rained dead leaves down all over him.
Gil: What the f—K is this thing? It looks like someone tried to hump it!
That somehow led to Gil joking that it’s in his contract that he’s only allowed to hump inanimate objects. And Osric.
But on a more serious note, I am always so touched by how supportive this cast all is of each other.
Rob: I need to change my introduction – chart topping recording artist Gil McKinney!
That’s right, Gil’s new EP topped the jazz charts, beating out even Patti LaBelle for a while. If you haven’t heard it, you need to get it. It’s gorgeous.
Gil in turn had lots of kind words for Richard.
Gil: How can I follow Richard, he’s so inspiring?
He also said that when he was new to the con circuit, it was Richard who took him aside and encouraged him, saying that he was a natural. They are so grateful for each other, and it makes me so grateful for all of them. Gil actually got a little emotional talking about how that goes for the fandom too.
Gil: I get kind of emotional thinking about how special this is, the community that you guys have.
He wrote about the gratitude on both sides, and how the SPNFamily has impacted him, in his chapter in Family Don’t End With Blood.
Rachel Miner, who also wrote an emotional and inspirational chapter in Family Don’t End With Blood, came onto the stage riding a freaking unicorn!
There were no stairs to this stage, so Rachel could make a grand entrance, chasing Rob around playfully (and fast!). Her unicorn is named Clarence. Of course it is.
Rachel thanked the fandom for their support of her ‘Be The Clarence’ campaign, which has saved 40,000 acres of rainforest – and for their support of her.
Rachel: I love you guys so much. You’ve brought me back to life.
I might have needed tissues at that moment.
She was asked about working with Misha.
Rachel: He’s a big geek too, so we mostly just geeked out together and had lots of fun.
She complained that he won’t accept compliments, he’s too humble – instead he just responded with ‘whatever’ when she tried to tell him how amazing Random Acts is.
Rachel also talked about how wonderful it is to have more strong female characters on television now, including the upcoming Wayward Sisters and her own character, Meg.
Rachel: I grew up wanting more strong female characters to look up to. Meg was strong in an understated way. It’s always the guys saving the girls and I’m glad Meg got to be the girl saving the guys.
She also had some lovely things to say about fandom – that when she meets people at her autograph line, everyone always has each other’s backs. So much so that she can’t tell if they’re strangers or besties.
Rachel: And that’s just beautiful.
Jason Manns gave a lovely little quoncert, sharing that he was apparently pranked by Kim and Briana’s PJ party the night before – they all came to his room in their pajamas and surprised him. Who has the photos of that??
He also sang some of his own songs, and the joined Rob and Billy for some Station Breaks and a beautiful rendition of Hallelujah. Nobody does it better.
Next up was Emily Swallow – but first we got double Benedicts, when Rob’s big brother Matt joined him onstage, towering over him.
Richard: This is why Rob loves Jared so much.
Rich and Rob told the story again about how everyone was confused the first time Emily Swallow came out to sing at the Saturday Night Special. Rob introduced her as “my sister”, and with her hair a different color nobody realized it was his TV sister instead of his real one. They immediately started fake making out and groping each other onstage, then Rob looked out at the audience and everyone was like, Woah, Rob really loves his sister…
Emily talked a lot about her character, which I really enjoyed.
Emily: I don’t think Amara will ever give up her quest. To date Dean.
Emily: I’m not gonna complain that I had so many intense close up scenes with Jensen.
Me: Also understandable.
Emily: I feel bad for Amara. The first person she meets after being locked up all that time is Dean Winchester. Then she has to meet the REST of the world…
She also had nice things to say about Jared and Jensen, and about the entire cast and crew.
Emily: You expect people working on a show after 10 years to be assholes, but they are all so warm and welcoming.
She also brought six fans onstage to re-enact how she had to be Amara stopping the Impala. Turns out the car was actually in chains so it couldn’t move, and Jared really did floor it. Can’t say I envy her having to stand in front of all that chained power and Jared behind the wheel gunning it!
Kim Rhodes and Briana Buckmaster started their panel with a bang.
Fan: What storylines would you like to see happen for your characters on Supernatural?
Kim: The first 8 things I thought, I can’t say.
Briana: Why, have they already happened?
Kim: They’re all sex positions.
Kim and Briana gave credit to the fandom for making the spinoff pilot happen (and hopefully the spinoff itself).
Kim: You’re responsible for the spinoff, that’s you making your voices heard.
Briana: Only this fandom could make someone with almost no television experience a regular in a spinoff.
Yep. That’s SPNFamily all right.
Kim: And I know how committed the spinoff writers are to expanding representation. There are six lead characters and they are all women. And not all straight white women.
Both Kim and Briana talked about writing their chapters in Family Don’t End With Blood, saying that they let each other read their chapters before they sent them in. (Though neither had to worry, they were both awesomely written!)
Friday night I joined my friend Jeni from Random Acts and her lovely husband for a delicious dinner at Buca – always one of the highlights of Minncon is time to hang out with Jeni and talk Random Acts, Misha Collins and fandom. I’m so thrilled to be helping out with RA’s anti bullying initiative, both as a psychologist and a fan.
After a great Friday night karaoke with Matt Cohen in the bobbing-head giraffe costume, Saturday kicked off with Elizabeth Blackmore. Like so many other guest stars have done, she talked about how wonderful the crew and cast of Supernatural are.
Lizzie: I’m sure you’ve heard this a million times, they they’re the best people. They’re a family.
She likes to think that her character was finally on the road to redemption when she met her demise, but then added, “but who knows, she’s crazy.”
She did say that the torture scene she had with Jared wasn’t fun.
Lizzie: Even when you’re acting, things like throwing water in someone’s face are not fun.
She then brought the moment back around to playful.
Lizzie: I had Jared wet and dripping and tied to a chair. Not the worst day I’ve had.
Jared, she added, made the whole experience easier – he was a generous scene partner.
The fight scenes were also challenging for her. At one point, she accidentally punched Jensen right in the face! Ouch.
Lizzie clearly enjoyed working with Jared and Jensen, but she also was matter of fact about what that really entails.
Lizzie: Those two are like actual brothers. Sometimes you’re more like their mum, like ‘put that down’, ‘no he didn’t do it first’…
Next was the Fab Foursome panel – Gil, Ruth, Briana and Kim.
They immediately instituted one of my favorite multi-panel rules: if one person is asked a question, the others make out. And yes, that happened multiple times. And nobody seemed to mind one little bit.
Kim and Briana wore their Be The Clarence tee shirts in honor of their friend Rachel Miner’s charity campaign.
Then there was the photo op discussion. They were asked about their favorite photo op poses, which prompted Gil to confess that he really liked doing sandwich photo ops with Matt, since he always ended up grabbing Matt’s bicep…or his ass…body parts everywhere…
Gil: Sometimes I just like to pretend I’m Jensen…
Ruth: (deadpans) We all do.
Gil and Briana ended up sandwiching Ruth, which seemed to make every happy as can be. Understandably.
A fan asked how they found confidence, and Ruth talked about what she wrote in her chapter of Family Don’t End With Blood – how much the SPN Family helped her do just that.
In the category of questions that seemed so innocent when they were asked, someone asked their favorite colors.
Briana: Donna loves the color pink. And the taste. [beat] Oh, that sounded bad.
That resulted in Creation slapping up a pretty perfect graphic, and everyone following suit.
The R2M panel kicked off with Matt Cohen’s traditional chair leap, followed by him talking about how often he’s unjustifiably shirtless on General Hospital and with a passionate Rob and Matt kiss. With Rob’s hand in the way…
Matt: I was all set to kiss Rob, but then his hand was there so I awkwardly kissed his hand. It was weird.
I guess so.
A fan asked the innocuous question, ‘how do you put up with BS?’
Richard, ever the quick wit, responded ‘how do we put up with Bob Singer?’
And it just went from there. Sometimes during the R2M panel, I laugh so hard that tears are running down my face.
We also got Rob doing his grumpy Rich imitation, and Matt cracking up over it.
Richard had me in hysterics talking about his first (terrible) job which was being the Creature from the black lagoon. He acted it out and I just lost it.
Rob also talked about one of his favorite scenes, in Don’t Call Me Shurley, where he got to work with the incredible Curtis Armstrong and say the line he loved – “I’ve had some girlfriends, had some boyfriends…” Big shout out to Robbie Thompson and his amazing writing. I miss you, Robbie!
Matt and Rob both talked about writing their chapters in Family Don’t End With Blood.
Rob: I didn’t find it that challenging, it was a relief to be that honest. Writing the chapter was therapeutic.
Though he said that it was hard to re-read it when he did a reading at the book release party we had in May (see article here). (There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when he did.)
Matt: I tried to be truthful, without kissing fandom’s ass. I wanted it to be real.
They all gave a shout out to Wayward Sisters, which Richard would love to direct for. It’s up to you, they said, whether the show gets made. Nothing like a little motivation!
Mark Sheppard strolled out onstage before the band could announce him, and proceeded to not answer any questions for the longest time but to amuse everyone greatly anyway. He interrogated fans who arrived late, with a cheeky smile.
And questioned something I think we’ve all shrugged our shoulders about.
Mark: It always amused me that licking the floor was supposed to be the worst thing we did to each other…
A fan asked if Crowley and demon!Dean ever got to second base.
Mark: Second?! You’re not giving me much credit. Crowley gets what Crowley wants…
And perhaps the best quip of the panel was when a fan asked if Mark had ever called Jared and Jensen “moose and squirrel” accidentally.
Mark: Not accidentally…
He also had some very nice things to say about Misha and how he saves lives and builds stuff, but warned us not to tell him. In fact, Mark included that same sentiment in the chapter he wrote in Family Don’t End With Blood, along with his great appreciation for fandom.
Mark: We appreciate that you appreciate us, and that you get behind the things we care about. But it’s important to know it’s YOU. You use us to come together and get things accomplished, but it’s you taking the action. We’re facilitators, but it’s you guys doing so much good.
Misha Collins came onstage to a sea of red lights in support of the “power of love” in the audience, which meant we got an absolutely beaming Misha smile.
Richard is directing another episode of Supernatural that Misha is in, which prompted Misha to tell the story of how Richard almost got him run over by a truck in the last episode he directed (see full story in our interview with Richard here – Interview with director Richard Speight Jr
Richard: I only hope and pray that the next episode I direct also brings us a near death experience at your expense…
I know this sounds bad, but I spent the first few minutes of Misha’s panel wondering if his fly was down, as was everyone sitting around me. It was sort of obvious, but I wasn’t about to take a chance on being wrong and actually tell him that. I mean, what do you say if he looks down and says, no it isn’t?? Oh um, sorry, not like I was looking at your crotch or anything….
Luckily someone much braver than me did tell him, to which Misha threw his arms in the air and declared that none of us were his friends.
Misha: Was no one going to say anything?? I’m so angry with you people right now.
In response to the ‘what’s the strangest thing a fan has done’ question which I usually don’t appreciate, Misha told a truly hilarious story about being at dinner and blowing his nose on a napkin, only to see out of the corner of his eye a hand stealthily sneak up across the table the take it. He acted it out too, which only made it all the funnier.
He also told the story about the time Cas was supposed to throw an epic punch, so Misha put his all into it. Right afterwards, Jensen came up to him and laughingly said, “Oh good one”.
Misha stared at him in confusion until Jensen suddenly realized he hadn’t been goofing around.
Misha: Now all the scripts are like ‘brutal fight scene – Castiel watches from the corner.’
There were an alarming number of prank questions at this con, so I feel sorry for anyone who was playing along at home with the prank question DRINK game. Misha ended up talking about the time he was pretty new to the show and trying really hard not to break while Jared tickled his balls with a broom. When they took the broom away, that didn’t even help.
Misha: Jared has very long legs…
Here’s why I love Misha. In response to a question about what will come after GISHWHES, part of the answer was this:
Misha: I’m a little bit weird.
(pauses, cocks head)
Misha: Okay, I’m very weird.
That’s why we love you, Misha.
A fan asked if he could meet anyone in the world, who would it be? Misha said it would be NPR radio personality Bob Garfield, who he once wrote to ask if he could be his servant. I tweeted that, and Bob Garfield himself immediately replied that the position is in fact still open. I hope Misha has his application in.
I had to apologize later because Misha looked to me for correction when he tried to figure out the plural of nemesis.
Misha: Nemesi? Nemesises? Um…bad guys…
Yep, I guessed wrong. Good thing I’m a psychologist not an English professor.
Misha also talked about the fandom, which is what he wrote about in his chapter of Family Don’t End With Blood.
Misha: I don’t know if you know how we talk about the fans backstage. We feel so lucky to be a part of this.
And then there was something in my eye.
I had a delicious dinner at our hotel restaurant with two friends, and then it was time for one of my favorite parts of any con – the Saturday Night Special!
Samantha Smith came onstage to introduce the SNS, and then Louden Swain and friends gave an amazing concert. It was extra powerful in that gigantic theater and huge stage, and also because Minneapolis is Prince’s hometown, so music is in the city’s blood.
We had rockstar numbers from Matt Cohen and Kim Rhodes, whose exuberance was palpable when she finished her performance.
Emily Swallow joined Rob for a duet of ‘You and I Both Know’.
Ruth Connell, a vision in red from head to toe and bathed in purple light, gave a performance of ‘Bang Bang’ that was ethereal in its beauty.
And Briana Buckmaster belted out Lady Gaga’s ‘A Million Reasons’ looking like an opera star. Also? Shoes!
I love to watch how every single performer always comes to Rob after they perform, just like Briana did there, looking for his pat on the back or hug and his ear to ear smile of pride in their accomplishment. It makes me so happy to see how much they support each other and the absolute joy they take in each other’s successes. I just….yeah, this cast. Seriously.
We got some Station Breaks with Rob, Billy Moran and Jason Manns.
And it’s always a treat when Richard Speight Jr. doesn’t just play bass, but picks up a guitar and sings too. This time he really rocked out on ‘Copperhead Road’.
Gil McKinney sang ‘How Was I To Know’ off his new EP, and I couldn’t keep the tears in. I told Gil later that the song will always be very special to me – Gil and I both lost our dads around the same time, and so when I hear his song for his father, I always think of my own loss and how I too didn’t know. He listened and then pulled me into a hug and I think I stood there for a rather long time, unsure of whether I was going to need to search for tissues again. Anyway, if you haven’t heard that song and the rest of the EP, it’s pretty amazing.
Rob sang a haunting version of Fare Thee Well, an emotional rendition of She Waits (especially because his brother was there too) and then a triumphant Mama’s Jam with Matt Cohen literally wrapped around Rob supporting him, both of them so into it. I’ve said it before, Rob is the heart and soul of the Saturday Night Special, and it’s quite a thing to witness.
They ended with (what else?) Purple Rain, Billy Moran making the guitar wail and the rest of the cast looking on in wonder. Along with all of us too. It was an amazing show in an amazing venue.
We all trudged back through the hamster trail, tired but happy – and looking forward to Sunday!